THE PRESIDENT’S COLUMN
by Don Mann, President, NPG, Inc.
NPG Statement on Population
We believe that the optimum rate of population growth is negative.
We believe that the optimum rate of population growth for the United States (and for the world) is negative, until such time as the scale of economic activity – and its environmental effects – is reduced to a level that would be sustainable indefinitely. We are convinced that if present rates of population and economic growth were allowed to continue, the end result – within the lifetimes of many of us – would inevitably be near-universal poverty in a hopelessly polluted nation and world.
We agree with Professor Herman Daly, who has pointed out that the human economy is a subset of the biosphere, and that the current scale of economic activity relative to the biosphere is already far too large to be sustainable indefinitely.
Stabilization is Not Enough
We believe that calls for merely slowing down rapid population growth, or for stabilizing population at present or even higher levels, are totally inadequate.
Such proposals, while presented as a solution, fail to address the central issue: how to create an economy that would be sustainable indefinitely. At present or at even higher levels of population, neither the application of science and technology nor simplifying lifestyles – nor any combination of the two – can offer any hope of reducing our impact on the environment to a sustainable level.
We Need a Smaller Population
We recognize that our impact on the environment, in terms of pollution and resource depletion, is the product of our numbers times our per capita consumption of energy and materials. Thus, there are only three ways by which that impact can be reduced:
- • By reducing the size of our population by a negative rate of population growth.
- • By reducing overconsumption by simplifying lifestyles.
- • By reducing resource depletion and pollution per unit of consumption through more efficient use of energy and materials.
Population size is by far the most critical of those three variables. Nevertheless, our present scale of economic activity is so large relative to the biosphere that all three measures are needed in order to reduce it to a sustainable level.[…]